Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As you pray this psalm, what do you notice? How is it like (or different from) prayers you would normally pray? How is it like (or different from) hymns or songs you like to sing? How do you feel praying in this way, using words people have been using for prayer for thousands of years? What about the prayers of the men in the story–do either of those sound like your prayers or songs?
What do you think prayer is for–what’s it’s purpose? How does prayer (like any of these three prayers) play a part in your everyday life and in your faith journey?
What pops out at you in this story about Jesus? Is there anything that makes you go “hmm….” or “huh?” or “hey!!!!” Are you reminded of any other stories–whether in the Bible, in literature/movies/music/TV, or in your own life? As you read, do you hear any music in your head?
Can you see how or why this story and this prayer might be related, why they would be paired in our Bible Study today? Is there anything that becomes clearer when we read the two together, or a message we might miss if we read just one of them?
What character do you most identify with? Who do you think these characters might represent?
If you were telling one of these stories in 21st century language, how might you get a similar idea across? (what kind of images would you use, what kind of metaphor, who would be the characters, etc.)
What do you hear as the good news in these stories? What do you hear as a challenge? What might these texts have to say to our community today?